Biz Bits

Business news from around the state

Chris Jones operates an automatic correlator while packing up some McDonald’s paper bags recently at Ronpak’s temporary facility at the Port of Shreveport-Bossier. Ronpak has recently announced that the company is relocating headquarters from New Jersey to Shreveport.

Courtesy of Jim Hudelson/The Times

Editors at Chief Executive dubbed Louisiana the “Cinderella of business improvement” in its recent survey of CEO opinions of the best and worst states in which to do business. The state has risen 34 notches in the survey during the last six years, now standing at No. 13. Here are a few reasons why:

Investment Packs a Punch

SHREVEPORT – Packaging product maker Ronpak Inc. liked Louisiana so much during its first six months of operating here that the company decided to relocate its headquarters from New Jersey to Shreveport. Ronpak owner Ron Sedley said a temporary facility the company has operated at the Port of Caddo-Bossier laid a good foundation for a new $17 million paper goods manufacturing plant that will employ about 175 people. Putting the corporate headquarters here will add 100 more jobs to the mix, he said. The facility will be completed next year.

Metal Shark Makes Waves

JEANERETTE – Fast boats that maneuver easily are the goal of a $2 million expansion announced by Louisiana-based Metal Shark Boats LLC. The company will put the money to work in a U.S. Coast Guard contract to build 500 rapid-response and small patrol boats over the next seven years. Along with creating 106 new jobs, the project will retain 75 existing jobs in Iberia Parish, with spinoff benefits across Acadiana. Metal Shark will produce the second generation of a 29-foot vessel that has a top speed above 50 miles per hour and will be used for port and coastal security; search-and-rescue missions; drug interdictions and law enforcement. The company, which won the $192 million contract in November, also is building other boat classes for the Coast Guard, Navy, law enforcement agencies and foreign militaries.

Chennault Expansion Takes Off

LAKE CHARLES – A new $21 million hangar under construction at Chennault International Airport will enable an expansion of aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul activity that could lure 500 jobs to the region. The new 112,000-square-foot hangar is slated for completion by late 2013, when it will open four bays large enough to handle wide-body airplanes such as the Boeing 777 and the Airbus A340. According to a McNeese State University study, since 1987 the Chennault field has supported roughly 3,000 jobs and had an economic impact of $5.5 billion.

Grove Finds its Groove

BATON ROUGE – A $28 million retail and residential development is on tap at The Grove, Richard Carmouche’s mixed-use project just off I-10 near the Mall of Louisiana. The developer, Domain Companies, said it has secured financing for the project known as High Grove, which will take 14 months to build. The project’s 192 apartments will be set above 25,000 square feet of retail space including boutiques and restaurants. The overall $400 million development eventually could include three hotels, 900 residential units, seven restaurants, 250,000 square feet of retail development and 400,000 square feet of office space.

More than Paper Profits

BOGALUSA – International Paper is investing $44 million to modernize its Bogalusa plant, which employs more than 400 people, mill Manager Todd Crutcher announced. In February, International Paper Co. completed a $4.5 billion acquisition of Temple-Inland Inc. and became the fifth owner of the Bogalusa mill in the plant’s 106-year history. The $44 million investment will retain the existing jobs and improve the competitiveness of the mill, Crutcher said.

Deep-Sea Investment

MORGAN CITY – A $5 million investment by Oceaneering International Inc. will create a 30,000-square-foot expansion of the company’s Morgan City facilities and help generate 200 new direct jobs. The expansion will be completed in November. Most new employees will be trained for production and performance of the company’s core product: remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, that perform technical tasks and inspections at up to two miles below the surface of the sea. Other employees will provide support for Oceaneering operations in St. Mary Parish. Hiring has begun and will continue through 2012.

Cargo Growth on Track

NEW ORLEANS – A partnership between Transportation Consultants Inc. and the New Orleans Public Belt will produce a rail infrastructure expansion that promises to boost cargo through the area in coming years. Logistics and packaging company TCI, which initially expanded here when it developed a $10 million packaging and warehousing facility, as well as its corporate headquarters, is putting $20 million into the new expansion to accommodate approximately 300 rail cars per month for the New Orleans Public Belt and nearly 2,000 containers per month for export from the Port of New Orleans. The project will create 20 new direct permanent jobs and enable approximately $1.2 million in new annual revenues to the public belt from increased rail traffic. n
 

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